Medical Negligence

Hospital Trust agrees £65,000 damages for woman left in pain and struggling to do basic tasks after thumb fracture was missed

hand scan

Sarah Colgrave


5 min read time

A 43-year-old Essex woman left unable to lift small objects due to the pain it causes – more than six years after fracturing the base of her thumb – has been awarded £65,000 damages due to a hospital missing the injury on an x-ray.

The fracture – which she suffered to her dominant right hand in a fall – should have fully healed and been pain free in between just six to eight weeks had it been treated appropriately by doctors at Herts & Essex Hospital.

However, she still suffers pains when attempting the most simple of tasks today which require gripping, pinching and lifting objects, such as lifting a kettle. She rarely uses her right hand at all and no longer wears clothes with buttons, as she finds it too difficult.

A legal case alleging clinical negligence was brought on behalf of the woman by Hudgell Solicitors against Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

The Trust initially denied any breach of duty of care, but later conceded fault after independent medical experts were consulted to assess the treatment provided.


Experts say injury may require surgery in future

As part of the legal case our legal team reviewed medical records and alleged negligence for failing to identify the break on an x-ray taken at Herts & Essex Hospital on July 28th, 2015.

The woman was told there was no fracture and sent home in a wrist brace, but as she continued to struggle and was in constant pain, she returned a few weeks later, by which time the fracture had healed with a degree of mal-union. It was by then too late for surgery and she was put in a plaster cast for two weeks.

An independent occupational therapist in trauma and orthopaedics, consulted by Hudgell Solicitors as part of the case, said the way the fracture had healed had led to her developing severe arthritis in the joint.

He said that she will need future surgery to repair the joint, but that in his opinion, in is unlikely that it will ever return to full function.


Damages settlement reflects daily impact on life

The woman said she took legal action as the injury had a significant impact on her life, and she felt a similar mistake could be even more costly if repeated on others.

“I wanted to make sure the mistake made in my case was highlighted and fully investigated because it had a big impact on my life and for some other people, a similar mistake with regards to things being missed on scans could lead to far more serious and more costly consequences,” she said.

“The injury still impacts on life every day, but what really upset me was how it made it difficult for me to do many things with my young daughter at the time. I couldn’t do even simple things like playing with her in a garden, so it restricted my quality time with her. She has grown up helping me to do the smallest of tasks most people take for granted.

“What I found most frustrating about my case was the fact that I questioned it when I was told there was no fracture. I said ‘are you sure?’ because it was hurting so much. They still didn’t check the x-ray again and just put me in a wrist brace, which obviously did no good.

“It shouldn’t have happened, and when I returned to hospital because I knew something was wrong, a member of staff said to me that it had been negligent to have missed the fracture and sent me home the first time. That’s what made me ultimately take legal advice. They seemed angry at what had happened too.”


Solicitor says errors reading scans are ‘all too common’

Solicitor Sarah Colgrave, of Hudgell Solicitors, handled the case and said she was pleased to have secured a substantial settlement for her client given the impact the injury has had on her life.

She said: “This was an injury which was, in medical terms, one of the easiest to spot and treat, given it was a simple case of identifying the fracture which was visible on the x-ray and then giving the patient an appropriate cast to ensure it healed in the right position.

“The experts we consulted as part of the case were of the view that this injury should have been fixed within a couple of months and back to fully functioning without pain. Instead, it has had a huge impact on our client’s life.

“She now tries to avoid putting any pressure on her right thumb during the day, but that is unavoidable and when she relaxes on an evening she experiences a throbbing pain that radiates through her thumb into her wrist.

“Her partner now manages all tasks around the home which she struggles with, but she has been left frustrated by the prospect of facing a future with the enduring pain she experiences, and the disruption to her daily activities.

“Psychologically, these limitations have led to her feeling down. Sadly we see too many cases where x-rays and scans are taken and they are not interpreted successfully. These are basic errors in medical care which of course, can be have a huge impact on lives. We see it from missed fractures such as in this case to failures to identify tumours.”

The woman added: “Sarah was brilliant all the way through. She explained everything so I always understood what was happening and why. Hudgells went above and beyond really and I am grateful for their support to get the result they did.

“It doesn’t change things for me in terms of my injury, but the compensation helps and hopefully the case has seen lessons learned which will ensure this mistake doesn’t happen to others.”

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